Most people have heard in the news that dark chocolate has antioxidant powers, but they may not know that cacao, the source of chocolate, also has antibacterial agents that may reduce tooth decay. Even better, the smell of chocolate can increase brain waves and help relax the body. Maybe that is why cocoa powder and chocolate body scrubs are all the rage at upscale spas around the country--making one smarter while basking in the scent of sweet chocolate. So, when patrons of beauty salons relax while being dipped in chocolate, they should also nibble on a little of the same, as chocolate contains phenyl ethylamine--a mild mood elevator. The list of chocolate’s benefits goes on and on, but one favorite is that men who eat chocolate live longer. Ladies should share that box of gourmet chocolates with their guys--with flavors that might pique their mood.
Many love the personal indulgence of cheese flavors, and Vosges Haut-Chocolate has an Italian collection that includes an abstractly shaped truffle called The Rooster. It is made with Taleggio cheese, organic walnuts, Tahitian vanilla beans and bittersweet chocolate. The natural saltiness in the cheese enhances the chocolateganache--just like an old-fashioned pretzel stick dipped in chocolate brings out the best in both the pretzel and the chocolate. These flavors may initially surprise, but the building blocks of flavors are traditional in savory cooking. Balancing sweet, acid and salt is key to any successful dish.
Latin American flavors and concepts are as hot as ever. Many love chocolate and caramel, so why not combine the traditional Argentinedulce de lechewith chocolate for a Latin American-inspired truffle? The Mayans first used chocolate in a drink by crushing cacao beans and mixing with water, chilis and Mexican vanilla. This beverage was reserved for special ceremonies. Vosges’ Aztec collection revisits these roots of chocolate in Mexico with on-trend flavors like spicy ancho chilis with Mexican vanilla. One can even try a corn tortilla chip dipped in chocolate and finished with a dusting of chili powder--a gourmet take on potato chips with chocolate.
A trip to the store can be like embarking on a tropical vacation. The cacao tree only grows within 15 degrees of the equator, and it requires constant warmth and rainfall. Think of this shopping trip as a gourmand vacation that brings you to exotic regions like Venezuela, Ecuador, Java and Madagascar. Hershey’s Cacao Reserve line even has signature and single-origin chocolate bars.
These trends and flavors are being incorporated into desserts around the country. Just as the savory side of the menu lists out the “organic and grass-fed” branding on a meal, keep an eye out for beautiful chocolate desserts that list out the brand and origin of the chocolate used. Taste the out-of-the-ordinary, but extraordinary, flavor combinations being used, and step outside the chocolate box to try a never-imagined combination. For all who crave a piece of chocolate at the end of the day because it lifts the mood--go ahead and indulge the senses!